June 4, 2008

News & Opinion: ChangeThis: Issue 47

By: 800-CEO-READ @ 4:08 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

We've just posted the 47th issue of ChangeThis. Rob Walker, from The New York Times Magazine, leads of the issue with a piece on the stories we tell about ourselves with our purchases and possessions, and who we're really telling them to. Russell Ackoff and Daniel Greenberg follow with a manifesto explaining how our current education system educates our children "for a world that no longer exists" and what we need to do to change it. Next up--if you are a career employee working for someone else, Milo and Thuy Sindell have written a bill of rights just for you, and if you're tired of working for others, Pamela Skillings tells you how to break free. Learn about the invaluable, yet untaught skill of business improvisation in Randy Sabourin's manifesto. And, wrapping up the issue, we have 7 marketing lessons from the show Seinfeld from Bill Gammell. Excerpts and links below.

The Invisible Badge: Moving Past Conspicuous Consumption
by Rob Walker
"Thorstein Veblen introduced the idea of 'conspicuous consumption' in The Theory of the Leisure Class, in 1899. And it's still being recycled today. Veblen gave examples like the man who parades down Main Street in 'stainless' linen, with a superfluous walking stick. These objects supposedly told a story--'evidence of leisure'-- to an audience of strangers.
Today's consumer is supposed to be a little more sophisticated than that. So it's puzzling how many marketers still talk about how a certain beer or sneaker or handbag functions as a so-called 'badge.' Even hybrid cars are said to be eco-status markers that show 'conspicuous concern' about the environment. More scholarly observers call this 'signaling.' But in the end it's all repackaged Veblen: The idea is that we buy stuff mostly to impress other people.
Perhaps this was true in the past. But the time has come to retire the conspicuous consumption idea. Observers of consumer culture (marketers, to name an example) need to understand that as a concept, it's inadequate. The rest of us (consumers, that is) need to understand that even if we wanted it to work, it just doesn't anymore.
There is a better idea--the invisible badge."

Turning Learning Right Side Up: Putting Education Back on Track
by Russell Ackoff and Daniel Greenberg
"Education should be a lifelong enterprise, a process enhanced by an environment that supports to the greatest extent possible the attempt of people to 'find themselves' throughout their lives.
For too long, we have educated people for a world that no longer exists, extinguishing their creativity and instilling values antithetical to those of a free, 21st century democracy. The principal objective of education as currently provided is to ensure the maintenance and preservation of the status quo--to produce members of society who will not want to challenge any fundamental aspects of the way things are. Traditional education focuses on teaching, not learning. It incorrectly assumes that for every ounce of teaching, there is an ounce of learning by those who are taught. Being taught is, to a very large extent, boring and much of its content is seen as irrelevant. It is the teacher, not the student, who learns most in a traditional classroom."

The Career Employee Bill of Rights
by Milo Sindell and Thuy Sindell, Ph.D.
"In the past, an employee's relationship with their job was about work life boundaries. Today and in the future, work is and will be an integral expression of who you are. More than ever before, people need resources that will give them a framework to organize their ideas, sources of motivation, skills, and tools and sources of motivation to take control of their job and discover what's in it for them.
Enter the Career Employee Bill of Rights. These are not the rights afforded to you by the law. These are your eight inalienable rights, and unfortunately, no one has made it clear that you have these rights. Now it's your time and turn to discover what each of these mean to you and take action to make these rights yours. Then, live them every day of your working life and professional career."
Escaping Corporate America: Changing Your Career Can Change Your Life by Pamela Skillings
"You can find meaningful work in corporations, but if the company values are too different from your own or if you are stuck in a job that doesn't tap into your talents, it's probably time to escape. Too often, corporate jobs revolve around meetings and bureaucracy and don't offer you enough opportunities to do work that you can truly feel good about. Over time, the stress of staying in a job you hate can lead to burnout, depression, anxiety, ulcers, chronic back pain, high blood pressure, and even serious heart conditions.
You may think that this is the price you have to pay for stability. But make no mistake, whatever job stability you think you enjoy is an illusion. Layoffs are standard operating procedure for corporations these days. No career choice is completely stable and risk free anymore. So if you're going to take a risk anyway, shouldn't you at least do it in pursuit of your passion?"
Business Improvisation: The Diving Catch of the Corporate World by Randy Sabourin
"Recall that moment when you where your most creative, aware, and tuned into the world around you. Imagine how valuable it would be to harness that state of mind and apply it at will to your most stressful and challenging business situations. To shine when others collapse or choke. To take a potentially disastrous circumstance and turn it into a diving catch worthy of any sports show highlight reel. Business Improvisation is the process of accessing and applying creativity to a situation in real time. It is the ability to converge composition, creativity and execution to achieve success. [...]
This manifesto is about applying the skill of improvisation to performance in the business world. The skills are taught in several other professions such as music, theater, medicine, military, and EMS. There is also a growing body of research to support the premise. This is your competitive advantage when comes to thinking quickly on their feet."
Seinfeld on Marketing: 7 Marketing Lessons from the Cast of the Show About Nothing by Bill Gammell
"All this time we thought Seinfeld was a show about 'nothing.' Little did we know that peppered in its nine seasons were hidden, real-world marketing lessons taught from the masters themselves. But, unlike the Soup Nazi's secret soup recipes, these marketing lessons are to be shared freely with everyone.
So why did I write this eBook? Anyone who knows me well knows that I watch way too much Seinfeld. So much so that many times during a conversation with someone I'll remark, 'Hey, that reminds me of a Seinfeld episode where Jerry and Kramer areā€¦' Basically, it's a curse.
We'll that's all about to change with this eBook. I have decided to use my Seinfeld powers for the good of marketing-kind. Maybe this will help to quiet the voices in my head (doubtful, but one can hope).
Even if you have never watched an episode of Seinfeld in your life (shame on you!), you can still participate. I'll give you the background of each episode so that you can play along at home.
...on with the show."